January 2007


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Surgery in the US, watched in Pakistan

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has recently made successful inroads in the field of e-Health. It has connected universities on the Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) with important universities of 14 countries, for an interactive video conferencing on health. This has enabled medical students and faculty members in Pakistan to witness a live arthroscopic shoulder surgery being conducted in the US, and also exchange comments and discussion prior to the surgery with a cross-section of the academic fraternity from the Columbia University, McCormick Centre Chicago, Peking University, GDLN World Bank, Washington DC, Shanghai Jiaotong University, IIT New Delhi, Hong Kong University and University of Athens.

On 5 December 2006, the 'Global Forum on Road Trauma' became the first ever health event to be telecasted via video conferencing in Pakistan. It included live interactions with academicians and professionals from top universities and research institutions, which included University of Toronto, World Bank, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, University of Vienna Medical School, Peking University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, India Institute of Technology, New Delhi, and McCormick Centre, Chicago.

Here it deserves a mention that by participating in this mega global conference on health, Pakistan formally joined a high-speed network named Internet2,  that has links with over 200 top-of-the-line research institutions of the US. The network can now help many  researchers to participate in collaborative experiments from thousands of miles apart, and also have access to high quality research material. Of course, health researchers in Pakistan should avail of this opportunity, which can give a fillip to the e-Health scenario of our not so friendly neighbour. We wish them best of luck on the road to e-Health.

Presently Higher Education Commission's video conferencing project has connected with nine universities in Pakistan through IP-based video conferencing system. This enables students of those universities to exchange ideas and views and gain knowledge and capabilities across vast distances.

A nose for cancer

Dr. Hossam Haick, a 31-year-old Israeli researcher with the Israel Institute of Technology, has received a whooping grant of 1.73 million euro by the EU under its Marie Curie Excellence programme, for the development of an electronic nose, which can sniff and detect the growth of cancer at its earliest possible stages. This grant can be seen as EU's sustained endeavours to support and encourage young scientists.

If Dr. Haick's research is successful, medical science will get a potent weapon to check any cancerous growth and eliminate this dangerous disease at its inception. Dr. Haick aims to create an instrument based on nanometer-sized sensors, that would not only be able to diagnose cancers at a very early stage, but would also ascertain as to what stage the disease is.

All odours comprise of molecules, and each of these molecules has a corresponding receptor in the human nose. When a specific receptor receives an odour molecule, it sends a signal to the brain and the brain identifies the specific odour of that particular molecule. The theory behind the electronic noses is based on this basic physiological model, only in electronic noses, sensors are substituted for the receptors. And instead of the brain, the sensors will transmit the signal to a program for processing.

A healthy charity

Christmas eve can be the ideal time for some development work cloaked in charity, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AusCham) has wisely availed of this opportunity. The chamber, in association with the Australia and New Zealand Group (ANZ), organized a Christmas-time charity gala dinner for raising funds for an Internet health project at the National Hospital of Paediatrics in Ha Noi, Vietnam. The National Hospital of Paediatrics is an important centre for paediatric care in Vietnam. The charity dinner got support from heavyweight sponsors like Sofitel Plaza Ha Noi, Phillips Fox, Duografikmedia, Midway Metals, Cathay Pacific and Ha Noi Zakka.

The proceeds from the night were donated to the Hoc Mai Foundation, which has introduced a web-based communications link for doctors at the National Hospital of Paediatrics, in Ha Noi. Here it deserves a mention that the Hoc Mai Foundation, under the University of Sydney, runs an e-Health linkage project, which endeavours to have online case referrals between Vietnamese doctors at the National Hospital of Paediatrics in Ha Noi and medical practioners with the Royal North Shore Hospital and Children's Hospital in Sydney, and the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. These links will help the Vietnamese doctors at the National Hospital of Paediatrics to able to refer cases on to hospitals in Australia for second opinions or expert advice, and as such we can say that the proceeds from this charity will go a long way in fostering to develop a strong e-Health link between these two countries.

An eye for e-Health

Drishtee, which is engaged in creating and implementing a sustainable and scalable platform of entrepreneurship for enabling the development of rural economy and society in India with the use of ICT, has already made a name for itself in the field of e-governance. And in Dec 2006,  it kick-started an e-Health initiative.  Drishtee, along with its partners and its network of ICT kiosks, is proposing to take a major lead in taking quality health services to the rural populace. It proposes to involve leading players in the health care domain and synergize their competency and bind it with the strength and credibility of ICT entrepreneur to reach a broad based section of the community.

Though the present project is in the pilot stage, its potential reflects a bright future for rural e-Health in India. Under this project, Drishtee will set up kiosk cooperatives in villages, which will facilitate people in those villages to communicate with their health centers. These health centers in turn will be connected to hospitals via Internet. Doctors in hospitals will send their reports and prescriptions online. Similarly, the kiosk centers will order medicines online as per the prescriptions.

Besides being an important conduit for medication, the health centers will also store important medical statistics, such as reports of blood pressure, pulse rates, etc. of regular patients. For this project, Drishtee has tied up with Bangalore-based Nerosynaptics, a local NGO named Janani, and a pharma company.

Here it deserves a mention that the World Economic Forum has selected 47 companies  across the globe as 'Technology Pioneers for 2007', which also includes two Indian firms. One of them is Drishtee, and the other is Strand Lifesciences. The latter's domain is into bio-informatics, and it  applies algorithms and other computer-based technologies to facilitate innovation, discovery and development of new drugs. It seems that e-Health is the new buzzword in India's technology.

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